[Video Game Review] GENESIS NOIR

How far would you go for love? Would you go to the ends of the Earth? Would you travel across time and space? Would you put an end to creation as we know it? Wait, what was that last part?

These are the questions at the heart of GENESIS NOIR, the new game from Feral Cat Den and Fellow Traveler. Billed as a “cosmic adventure,” you play as No Man – a watch salesman who witnesses the impending murder of the love of his life, Miss Mass. The shooter, Golden Boy, doesn’t just fire any ordinary ammunition, however – the bullet in question is The Big Bang itself. With time frozen, it’s up to you to explore the universe and search for a way to prevent or destroy creation in order to save her.

If you can’t already tell, GENESIS NOIR is…different. It’s a point-and-click adventure, sure, but its marriage of presentation and ideas is unlike anything I’ve played before. Aesthetically, the game is, simply put, stunning. The predominantly black and white color scheme and cartoony art style complement the story’s noir inspiration while also allowing the interstellar concept to explore some more unusual places. Several moments had me mouthing the word “wow” as No Man traveled amidst gorgeous cityscapes and celestial bodies.

Along with these incredible aesthetics is a beautiful and appropriately jazz-fueled score. The game has extremely minimal voice acting, playing out like a near-silent film, so the music is vibrant and expressive, conveying the emotional beats of the plot.

If you haven’t been paying attention to my recent contributions for Nightmarish Conjurings, you might not realize that I’ve long been a sucker for noir and murder mysteries. Having just reviewed the indie feature The Tangle and also writing about the wonderful Paradise Killer on Switch, it only made sense that GENESIS NOIR has been on my radar as well. That said, I find myself torn here in terms of narrative. On one hand, the lack of dialogue and inherently abstract premise can make it a bit tricky to keep tabs on everything that occurs throughout the roughly 4-5 hour story. I never quite found myself invested in the same way I felt while playing as Lady Love Dies in Paradise Killer (though these are admittedly very different titles with different goals and styles).

This partially has to do with GENESIS NOIR’s gameplay. As mentioned, this is a point-and-click adventure, but there isn’t much of a challenge to be found here. Your time will be spent clicking on various objects to advance to the next scene. While there are “puzzles” to be solved, I found that, in some cases, I was able to simply click on items arbitrarily and complete the task, when it would’ve been much more satisfying to have felt as though I solved it through my deductive reasoning.

One technical issue worth pointing out, and one that I’ve read other gamers have also experienced, is that the game is prone to softlocking on the Switch. In one chapter early on, I was unsure of how to advance through a particular section, and only after restarting the chapter did I realize the cursor was supposed to allow me to interact with an apple on a tree.

What I did find myself appreciating here is just how playful the experience can be, and this is helped by the fact that each chapter in the game has its own distinct theme and puzzles to solve. For example, one chapter later on in the game gives you jigsaw puzzles to piece together. One of my favorite moments of the game has No Man participating in a “Simon Says” type scenario with a bass player. While it won’t prove to be much of a challenge, the mini-game leads into a jam session of sorts where players can play notes at their own pace along to the music, inviting them to experiment. It’s a joy to play.

Given the point-and-click gameplay, playing GENESIS NOIR with a controller can feel a bit finicky, as a mouse and keyboard setup typically lends itself better to this style of game. The one benefit to playing it docked on the Switch is that the game deserves to be experienced on the biggest screen possible with the best speakers. It’s incredibly cinematic and, without giving too much away, it all builds to a finale that’s surprisingly huge and psychedelic.

Well, that is until my experience was brought to an end by a bug that caused the game to crash, causing me to replay a rather lengthy chapter. So I started it back up.

And then it happened again.

I spent some time online trying to figure out how to bypass this, but unfortunately, by that point, I had replayed the section enough times where I found myself at my wits’ end. To say this was frustrating would be an understatement, as this happened to occur right at the game’s emotional climax that the journey had so carefully and lovingly built up towards.

This puts me now in a rather difficult situation. The things that I like about GENESIS NOIR are things that I really, really like. Its concept and ideas are so imaginative, making for one of the most aesthetically cohesive games I’ve played in years. As abstract as the narrative can be, the presentation is so arresting that the experience naturally pulls you in, encouraging you to visit one jaw-dropping scene after another. Though the gameplay isn’t particularly challenging, there’s a playfulness to it that legitimately made me smile on several occasions. But since I wasn’t able to finish the game, due to no fault of my own, I’m finding it hard to recommend it in its current state on Switch.

Since it seems other players have encountered various bugs and glitches as well on Switch, I’m hoping that the developers take the time to patch them, as only then would I feel comfortable recommending the game at full price. Once these issues are sorted out, however, fans of adventure games should set aside a few hours for this one, as Feral Cat Den and Fellow Traveler’s cosmic mystery is so close to being an out-of-this-world experience.

GENESIS NOIR is available now on Switch, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac OSX. A copy was provided to Nightmarish Conjurings for the purpose of this review.

Tom Milligan
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